My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #945: The "Dud"

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 01-28-2013 11:50 AM 2425 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 944: Time to Shine! Part 945 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 946: Pushing to a Higher Level »

I suppose I could blame it on the previous week. My back was still sore. I was feeling poopie about some of the things with my job in general. The cats got me up early and I was kind of tired.

Whatever the reason, I would think it is pretty safe to describe Saturday as a “less-than-inspiring” day.

We all have them I suppose. But most people don’t put their creative lives out here on the internet every day for all to see. After almost three years of doing so, and nearly 950 posts under my belt, you would think I would be used to not only showing off my triumphs, but also my tragedies. But I don’t know if I will ever get used to that.

I hid out yesterday and couldn’t bring myself to post. I felt so crummy about the piece (yes – only one piece!) that took me ALL of Saturday to produce and I couldn’t even think of posting it here for all the world to see. Perhaps if I were still in 5th grade I would have had the right to be proud of it, but as a “professional designer” (and I use that term mockingly!) it just didn’t make the cut.

Perhaps it was due in part as to how well the scroll sawn masks came out. After hurting my back, it was much easier for me to draw on the computer and cut at the scroll saw than to paint. When my injury occurred, I was in the middle of making a set of Halloween masks (painted) for my painting customers and to hopefully offer to wholesale kits and add to that side of the site. The way I sit when I paint though proved to be painful and I was easier (for now) to switch to doing the scroll sawn version of the pattern for the scrollers and put the painting on the side for the time being.

But now I was feeling better, and unfortunately I lost that rhythm and wave of thought that I had regarding the painted pieces. I felt bland about the project in general, and the inspiration just wasn’t there. But I needed to push the pile forward, so I spent most of Saturday attempting to do so. The results I thought were somewhat of a disaster.

One of the first indications was how long it took me to get started. I milled around the house doing every chore I could think of from cleaning out the microwave to cleaning the cat box. I find that when I am unsure of my direction, I ‘notice’ things around the house that need attending. This busy work buys me a temporary reprieve from actually doing the task at hand and is a very effective (and somewhat justifiable) way to waste a day. After all, these things NEED to be done, don’t they?

I am almost ashamed to admit how long it took me to achieve the unimpressive result. Let’s just say it took much longer than normal. The amount of struggling with each stroke from my paintbrush only seemed to make that time longer, but I forged ahead.

When I was finished, I turned to Keith who was sitting across the couch from me drawing another remarkable design and asked what he thought.

The look on his face spoke volumes.

If your best friend can’t be honest with you, then they really aren’t your friend. I tried to remember that as I watched his face as he saw the piece. While we don’t always agree on what we like and dislike (opposites attract after all) there was no doubt in my mind that he was not impressed at all by this and that my first inclination was confirmed.

It was indeed ugly.

He was kind in his rejection. But I could see him searching for something positive to say about it and having difficulty. As a teacher, we are ourselves taught to always try to find some good in your student’s piece, no matter how hideous. For this piece, it was a particularly difficult challenge to do so. Finally, he muttered something like “Well, every hit can’t be a home run!” or something of that nature, and at that moment, while I was bitterly disappointed at the confirmation of the monstrosity, I truly admired and loved him for his honesty. For it is honesty that I needed from him, not appeasement. And I knew in my own heart that this piece wouldn’t even pass the “looks good if you are traveling past it at 20 miles per hour” standard that my painting girls used to use for substandard results. Even if you looked at it while flying by on the Concord, it would still look like crap.

So I put away my paints. And I sulked. And I played some games on my computer for the rest of the night. And I skipped writing yesterday because if I began typing, it may have been a sort of resignation from designing. (Not really, but I felt like it!)

But I am not a quitter. I have been through too much in my life to let a little thing like this defeat me. After all, it was a small 4 inch piece of plywood. And a couple of bottles of paint. And I like color. And I like pushing color around with a brush to make things look cool. So I wasn’t going to let this hiccup in my thought process stop me.

I got back on the proverbial horse and started over. And things got better.

It wasn’t easy to keep going, but I had to stop thinking of the past and move ahead to something completely different. I began with trepidation, but soon I began to feel that dread lifting and I began enjoying what I was doing again. I had a couple of scary moments, but I was able to push through them and in the end, I felt much better about what I painted.

After the first piece was done yesterday, I once again held it up for Keith to see, and this time his reaction was one of encouragement and approval. “Now that’s better!” he said. My heart soared. Not because I needed his approval, but because I knew within myself that it WAS better and more along the lines of what I was thinking.

I went on to paint two additional designs yesterday. All the while, I was planning the next several pieces. The floodgates were opening once again and things were moving in a positive direction. I finished the day with half of the set of 12 pieces done, but with ideas for the subsequent pieces pretty clear in my head.

I realize that everyone has different tastes, and I also realize that you may or may not like these designs. That’s OK. It is what makes the world so wonderfully diverse and beautiful. But as a designer, I think it is important to like our own work and what we are doing, or we will never be able to convince others that our work is good. It is difficult enough trying to ‘sell’ work that we like. Doing so with pieces we think are not up to our standards is pretty much impossible, no matter what others tell us.

I am glad Keith told me when he didn’t like the piece. It strengthens my trust in him and I know that he wasn’t trying to be cruel, but trying to help me do my best work. And that is the best kind of partner anyone could have.

As for the “dud” – I think I will keep it around, only to remind me that everything that I do isn’t always easy. Some things take a bit more work to make my vision become a reality. But ‘settling’ isn’t an option and when I fail, I need to get right back at it and try again. It is essential to grow and progress.

”The Dud”

Have a great Monday!

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

11 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5450 days

#1 posted 01-28-2013 12:07 PM

your blogs always hold such Wisdom … not only about the business and perseverance but about what it means to be a good friend AND how to listen to feedback.

and what is it that you don’t like about the dud?

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4210 days

#2 posted 01-28-2013 12:18 PM

Thanks, Debbie. :)

I just think it looks so “Blah!” I want these masks to be deep and somewhat ‘Vintage’ looking. Perhaps if I were making tribal masks, it wouldn’t look so bad. It just came out with no depth and very little interest in design. The colors were ‘flat’ and it looked like a child painted it. I guess on some levels it is “OK” but it just didn’t fit in with the others in the set. I think maybe the picture makes it look better than it is in person.

Most importantly, it wasn’t as I envisioned it in my head. Not even close. Sometimes things come out better than we envision them, but sometimes they just aren’t as good. I considered shuffling it in with the other 11, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting something that I wasn’t really proud of in with the ones that I was happy with. It would have haunted me (and not in a good way!)

Yes, we have to have tough skins when designing. There are times Keith doesn’t like what I do and that is OK. We all have a right to our own personal tastes. But I am glad he comes out and tells me instead of just saying things are “nice” when he doesn’t think so. I don’t take it personally. But I am glad when I am having doubts that he can be constructive and let me know what he truly thinks. That is a real help.

Thanks so much for your thoughts. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4132 days

#3 posted 01-28-2013 01:15 PM

I think the dud looks great.
That’s why I’m not a painter though.
If it looks better than I could do it, it looks great to me.
I can paint something a solid color. Beyond that? Surely you jest!

In all honesty though,
Even though I don’t see a problem with the dud,
If I look at it, and then the other ones in the first photo,
I can see the difference between the dud and the pieces that were done by a talented artist.

As for Keith. Have you considered that you DO need his approval? I mean that in a good way. I pass anything I do by my wife. I trust her to be honest with me no matter what. If she sees something I done that is just terrible, I can see it in her face before she says a word. In those circumstances, noone besides her ever sees it. So in a way, I do need her approval before the world sees anything I make. She measures all my work before anyone else. It sounds like Keith is that one person you trust enough that you need his approval before it is released upon the world.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4210 days

#4 posted 01-28-2013 01:23 PM

You are absolutely right, William. I did mean that in the way you described how you and your wife interact. Keith and I do have very different tastes. We kid each other about it all the time. If one ‘likes’ something, chances are the other doesn’t (“Of course your don’t!” is our funny response!) This is done without any negative feelings at all. We marvel at how well we get along because we like so many different things. But I suppose we agree on the important ones, so that is why it works.

It is very important to me what he thinks of my work. However, both he and myself know that one person’s thoughts aren’t always what everyone else is thinking. Some of my successful projects he doesn’t care for. Same with me – some of his that I am not fond of or would have never done are his best sellers. But that helps us, not hurts us. It gives our ‘company’ a broader dimension than it would have with just one person. And that is great.

Thanks for clarifying things in a way that I didn’t think of. And thanks for your honest thoughts too. I always appreciate your input. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View flskipper's profile


24 posts in 4985 days

#5 posted 01-28-2013 02:04 PM


I can see what you are talking about with the one mask, but only when you compare it to the other 6. The set of 6 are very compelling and draw you in. They have what I call pizzazz, both in their color and design. The one by itself kind of gets lost in the background, both in color and design.

If I were doing the painting the one “dud” for me would be excellent. However when you set it beside the other 6, I can definitely see a difference. Thanks for caring so much about doing the best design and painting for your customers. That is what makes you and Keith so successful.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4210 days

#6 posted 01-28-2013 02:42 PM

Thanks, Skip!

There IS a difference in the pieces, although many may not see it at first. In person I think it is very evident. If we don’t set high standards for ourselves, we will never improve. As long as I learned from this (and went on to do better things!) I think it’s OK to fall every now and then. It keeps us from becoming stagnant. :)

Have a great day!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View MoleParty's profile


11 posts in 3373 days

#7 posted 01-28-2013 03:28 PM

Sheila, your work is splendid. Even the ‘dud’ is none too shabby (understated English for good). I won’t bother you with posting it here, as a comment, but you might like to read ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. Just make sure to substitute the word woman for man and you can’t go far wrong. Oops I just posted this from Moleparty



-- Ross Dennis and Martyn Brewer

View Celticscroller's profile


1286 posts in 3363 days

#8 posted 01-28-2013 08:50 PM

Hi Sheila, my favourite of the painted masks is the one in the middle left hand side. I love the detail in all of them, including the “dud’ but I do agree that the “dud” looks a bit flat. I also admire your willingness to persevere and complete something that you are happy with. Like you, my husband is very supportive of what I do – and that means telling me when something could be done better. We have different tastes however, even if he does not like a particular design, he looks at the overall picture and lets me know the areas where I could improve my methods. I ask his opinion on any piece of creative work I do and value his input.
Enjoy your day and I hope your back is fully recovered.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4210 days

#9 posted 01-28-2013 11:48 PM

I remember studying that poem in my university literature class Martyn. It has been many years since I thought of it. I love poems such as that, as they are so insightful and I think that most can relate to them in some way.

Wise men and women with gifts for words.

We learn from the past and from others who have lived this life before us. But only if we are open to learning and tuned to others and what they are trying to pass on to us from their own experiences. We need to take the time and be aware of our surroundings and the people we interact with. Knowledge is all of ours for the taking. But so many are unaware.

Anna – the mask you pick is my current favorite also. It was the first one that I painted yesterday, that broke the stale mate that I was playing with myself. Even though it is a simple design, it was deep to me and represented my inner thoughts very closely. It gave me hope that I was once again on the right creative path and it gave me the courage to continue. I am glad you like it too. :)

I took a different path today. You will see where I traveled in tomorrow’s post. It was a short side trip that was in the end, very satisfying and a bit exciting for me.

It was a good day.

Thank you again for your comments and friendship.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 4212 days

#10 posted 01-29-2013 01:41 AM

Mask! The point at which you want to hide the real thing. The most precious of all is the time you wear this… a masquerade ball… one that is special day that you dream of who is the one behind the mask.

From the group, I like ‘THE DUD’ best… practically, all corners been rounded and the choice of colors is great.

Thanks for sharing.
Have a nice day.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4210 days

#11 posted 01-29-2013 11:26 AM

Thank you Bert! :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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